Watching brief - Amanda Platell thanks Dyke for the gift of Marr

A word of advice for Michael Howard's press office: never book your leader's broadcasting schedule a

Apologies are in, especially grovelling unconditional ones, so here goes. Four years ago I vehemently opposed the appointment of Greg Dyke as director general of the BBC. I objected to his close ties to Tony Blair, his donations to new Labour and his commercial background. I thought together they would spell disaster for the BBC. I was wrong. I also thought his review of the BBC's political coverage would result in a huge dumbing down of output. Again, I was wrong.

Instead Dyke delivered inspirational leadership, quality programming and ratings. He also proved a gutsy defender of the independence of the corporation. Had he not been, he'd still be in a job.

As to the dumbing down of political programmes, the reverse was true. He made politics more accessible with Jeremy Vine's Politics Show and Andrew Neil's The Daily Politics. The Today programme and Newsnight have never been more robust.

Despite huge opposition, he even had the balls to get rid of old-timers such as Jimmy Young - replacing him with Vine. The latest listening figures prove he was right.

Dyke also gave us Andrew Marr as political editor, for which we, as a nation, should always be truly grateful.

And finally, I told Greg Dyke during a meeting with William Hague right after his appointment as DG, when he faced a media mob outside Conservative Central Office, that there was no back door to Smith Square. There is. We used it often.

Seldom do the print media move as one, but they virtually did over the Hutton inquiry. Tony Blair could find solace only in the Sun, which did brilliantly with its Hutton leak, the Sunday Telegraph and the Financial Times. If my experience of dodgy leaks is anything to go by, it will be someone at the printing company wot did it, m'Lord. How typically naive of Lord Hutton to think that taking the printing away from a government printer and going outside would do anything other than introduce dubious commercial practices into the equation.

The only question the Sun exclusive left unanswered was why on earth Michael Howard, the Tory leader, with 24 hours' extra notice, was so breathtakingly unprepared for the findings?

And a word of advice for his press office - never book your leader's broadcasting schedule in advance of an unknown set of findings. So confident was Howard that Blair would be found a liar, that he was booked for a string of high-level shows following Hutton. Pulling out of them and being empty-chaired made him look even weaker than he did when he left the chamber on Wednesday after his abysmal response to the Prime Minister. It was Tory tribalism at its worst.

The "Whitewash?" front page of the Independent was inspired, a lovely combination of originality, grace and understatement. The white front with the modest red lettering made the Indy stand out from the crowd.

There was some fabulous writing. My favourite was Jonathan Freedland's Guardian front-page analysis under the headline "If it went to the West End they'd call it Whitewash". It was compelling stuff and performed that greatest of writing tricks - to put into words what most people were thinking.

Special mention must also go to that other troubled, leaderless national treasure, the Daily Telegraph. Under its new editor, Martin Newland, the Telegraph has finally found a fresh conservative voice: distinctive, intelligent and questioning. And the weekend plaudits go to the Sunday Times for its double scoop of the Dyke letter to Blair, proving the government was trying unduly to influence the BBC's war coverage, and the first piece by Andrew Gilligan, who appears to be able to write about as well as he keeps notes.

Over at Radio 5 Live, meanwhile, John Pienaar, its chief political correspondent, has really come into his own during the inquiry. Highlight of the week was an increasingly agitated Alastair Campbell storming the studios trumpeting his newly proved innocence. Strutting, smug, sanctimonious - if only he could have seen himself as others did. Campbell unleashed was a spin-doctor's nightmare. He said again and again, eyes blacker and wilder with every interview, that all he had ever wanted to do was to "remove the stain from his character". That's not a stain, Alastair, that's a birthmark.

There aren't many writers I would buy a paper for, but Julie Burchill is one of them. The Saturday Times pulled off a real coup when it stole her from the Guardian, but her first column was disappointing. Whenever I read Burchill, I expect her to have found the collective G-spot, not God. Burchill a Christian? Whatever next? But the second week she was back on form with a fruity attack on the Worried Well. Thank God - I suppose.

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